Etiquette & superstition: tomatoes

My old pal Millicent Fenwick says in my edition of Vogue’s Book of Etiquette that “toe-mah-to” is the preferred pronunciation of everyone’s favorite nightshade. Not here in Los Angle-ease it isn’t, Millie. This might be the first time we’ve ever disagreed.

ETIQUETTE: You probably figured this one out the hard way when you were a little kid, but if you didn’t, you should know that the best way to eat a cherry tomato is to put the whole thing in your mouth at one time. If it’s too big, you may cut it, but you are going to need a knife and fork to do so. This is not being overly fussy; attempting to cut a cherry tomato with the side of your fork is not going to end well for you or your dining companions. Pierce the tomato delicately with the tines of your fork to stabilize it, and then slice it in two slowly and attentively.

Raw tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, and should be served room temperature rather than chilled for best flavor. Of course, all of this is a bit of a moot point if you are serving firm, store-bought tomatoes that have been ripened with ethylene gas. Nothing will help those sad fellows flavor-wise. Hey, but they look kind of pretty, eh?

SUPERSTITION: That old superstition about tomatoes being poisonous? Oh, that’s ridiculous. And nobody ever really thought that, anyway. They won’t kill you and they won’t turn you into a werewolf either. Superstitious posh. Tomatoes are absolutely fine to eat, really.

Just remember not to eat one fresh off the vine if you want to avoid brain fever. Also, peel it unless you want to give yourself The Cancer, and oh brother, don’t drink tomato juice unless you want to aggravate that high blood pressure of yours. Otherwise, go for it. Oh yeah. Don’t eat the seeds either, unless you’ve already had your appendix taken out. Better to put the tomato seeds in a pouch and wear them around your neck; it’s a sure-fire way to be popular with the boys.

Photo of Chole post-skunking by Brian Boucheron via Flickr; you really should check out the whole album here

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